Microsoft aims to make the Kinect more than just a gaming accessory, adding features that turn the Xbox into a better multimedia and communication tool than seen before.
When you wave your hands to start up the Kinect, you’ll find a new interface loaded with larger icons for you to pick. Hold your hand over the icon for a few seconds and you’ll select the item, the interface whizzing away and taking you to your selection.
This icon-driven interface makes the Xbox 360 dashboard easier for you to control with your hands, similar to the virtual display in “Minority Report” where you wave your hands in the air to make things happen on the screen.
Using your Xbox 360 without a controller can be done with the Kinect. You merely wave your hand around and hold it over buttons.
Outside of the Dashboard, Microsoft has added Video Kinect, a chat system that uses your TV and the Kinect to provide a video chat system in the way that Skype is now beginning to appear on various TV sets.
The system uses the widely uses MSN and Windows Live networks for communication, allowing you to connect up with your friends for simple video chat.
Or it’s supposed to, anyway. At the time of release, we couldn’t connect to any of our friends using MSN Messenger on either Mac or PC. Perhaps this will be fixed with a patch or new release of Messenger on these platforms at a later date.
The Video Kinect service allows you to video call your friends over Xbox Live and the Windows Live networks using the Kinect’s video camera and microphone.
Not without problems
If our previous comments haven’t been enough to convince you that we absolutely love what the Kinect is doing, then you’re probably not reading this review right.
But the Kinect isn’t without faults. After all, this is the “version 1” of the first controller-less technology, and we wouldn’t expect anything less.
For starters, the amount of room required for gameplay is going to be more than what most people have.
The amount of room needed to play is larger than what you might expect.
We have a fair amount of space in our offices, but you will need at least 1-2 metres of open space to let you interact properly. And that’s for one person. With each extra player you add, you’re going to need to move further back so the Kinect’s camera and sensors can capture everyone involved.
In a party environment, this may be a bit of a problem. We don’t know many lounge rooms that have more than two metres of empty space from the TV.
Another problem deals with proximity and how close you move to the screen as you’re playing. Naturally, as you get sucked into a game, you find that you move closer and closer to the camera. This can cause your actions to be misinterpreted, and in some instances, fail to register entirely.
You may also find your onscreen actions lag what you’re doing in front of the screen. It’s nothing major, and was most apparent in Kinect Joy Ride, with the cursor trailing our hand motions somewhat.
While the technology is amazing in how it picks up movement, it only picks up major limb movement. You may be disappointed to know that while your arm, head, body, and leg movements are translated into onscreen character movements, individual finger movements are not. The next time you’re trying to make your avatar hold the peace sign and nothing happens, this is why.
Despite these small problems, it’s obvious that Microsoft has a winner here. While it can take a little getting used to and the space requirements can be constraining, the results are are nothing short of amazing. We’re looking forward to the next year’s batch of games with eager anticipation.